John Cena has spent nearly half his life in a pro wrestling ring. Now WWE fans are seeing the 40-year-old less and soon, as his catchphrase “You can’t see me!” has maintained for years, he may disappear from the squared circle altogether.
“I … know that my days are numbered,” Cena told Complex magazine this week. “I just turned 40 in April and we have so many young and talented performers, I don’t know how many years I have left.”
Cena, who began wrestling in 1999 before joining WWE in 2002, won’t fade into obscurity, of course. In fact, the reason he said he’s been spending less time performing with WWE is because he’s been making movies.
“[T]here’s no dipping around the fact that I haven’t been on the program in a while because I’ve been doing other stuff,” he said. “I haven’t danced around it, I explained that the reason I cannot be on the program is because the movie folks, their insurance doesn’t allow you to. That’s a dealbreaker, it’s not negotiable.”
While Cena has a long ways to go in catching up to fellow WWE alum Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s box office success (Johnson is Hollywood’s highest-paid actor, according to Forbes), his schedule of late hasn’t been empty.
Cena’s filming “The Pact,” a comedy that also stars Leslie Mann about three overprotective dads afraid of what their daughters might do on prom night.
Two movies are in postproduction: “Daddy’s Home 2,” another comedy that stars Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell and Mel Gibson; and “Ferdinand,” an animated feature co-starring Kate McKinnon in which Cena voices the principle character — a ginormous, but gentle bull.
He also appeared in the recently released pictures “Tour de Pharmacy” and “The Wall,” as well as the television miniseries “Southpaw Regional Wrestling,” a parody about a small pro wrestling promotion in the 1980s.
Cena has also dabbled in the reality TV genre, having recently wrapped up his second season as host of “American Grit,” which puts normal people through military-style exercises and he’s made appearances on E Network’s “Total Divas.”
With that exhausting schedule in mind, as well as a new engagement to fellow WWE star Nikki Bella, it’s no wonder Cena’s thinking about wrapping up his WWE career. Quitting won’t be easy for Cena, it seems.
In his talk with Complex, Cena referred to WWE has his “family.”
“I think it’s imperative to be home with what I call my family and when I have any time available I will bring it into a WWE ring,” he said. “I will work nonstop. I won’t just, “Okay I’ve made it out of the WWE,” which is what a lot of folks aspire to do they want to go onto something bigger and better when I think the WWE is the biggest and the best.”
Cena has been what many consider the WWE’s biggest star since 2005, when he won his first WWE world championship during one of the main events at WrestleMania 21. While he’s mostly played a face, or good guy, Cena’s character hasn’t always been beloved by fans. Lately, he’s been getting boos from adults in the crowd, who complain his jean-shorts-wearing, cool-dad image is growing stale.
The jeers won’t be what stops Cena, however.
“I totally get it,” he told USA Today in 2015 about the ire his character can inspire. “I don’t necessarily spend my time watching programs that 6- to 10-year-old kids enjoy, so I get the need for different racy comedy and story lines.”
While some might not miss seeing Cena in the WWE, those who will can take heart: Cena told Complex that although he may not be in the ring, he would like to maintain some sort of relationship with WWE in the long term.
“If the day comes when I’m not involved with the WWE that would come as a drastic surprise to me,” he said. “WWE has been my family for the past 15 years and I’ve been very vocal about my passion and love for not just my time in the ring as a wrestler, but the company itself, what it stands for, the people that work for. I literally would do whatever they asked me to. In whatever capacity I can help the company I would love to do so.”